Your favourite World Cup moments: Milla's dancing puts Cameroon on the map

We asked Goal readers to vote for your favourite World Cup 1990 moment and you chose the the forward's famous corner flag celebration in Italy

By Ed Dove

To this day, Cameroon’s performance at the 1990 World Cup remains the standard to emulate for African nations on the international stage.

In terms of achievement, their run to the quarter-final has not been bettered, whilst the true value of their showings in Italy is best appreciated by considering the affect they had on Africa’s standing within the world game. And at the emotional heartbeat of their campaign was Roger Milla's iconic celebration.

It encapsulated the flair and the unorthodoxy of Africa and generated sentiments that still linger to this day. The man himself was a perfect caricature of an African footballer, recapturing something of the naivety, the innocence and the mystery of the Zaire team that had been so emphatically undone at the 1974 event in West Germany.

By Peter Pedroncelli Goal Africa

The image of a 38-year-old Roger Milla dancing at the corner flag after yet another goal for Cameroon at the 1990 World Cup is pleasantly burnt into the hearts and minds of many football fans, African and otherwise. The exploits of the Indomitable Lions provided one of the first moments when supporters from all over the world took notice of Africa, watching them beat defending champions Argentina, before going on to the quarter-finals of the competition. 

Roger Milla's contribution to the images that were beamed around the world cannot be discounted, and I still cannot help but smile and feel a sense of pride when I think of his joyous celebration. That World Cup, and more specifically those Indomitable Lions, provided an African reference point in the world's favourite sport that would forever endear fans to the continent and its football.

Watch Milla's moment on One Stadium

In Italy, Milla ensured that it was Africa’s character in triumph, rather than in failure, that would be the world’s pre-eminent perception of the continent’s football. Milla himself was, famously, 38 when he burst onto the international scene in 1990. He was a journeyman footballer who had enjoyed great success in his homeland, winning both continental club honours and the African Footballer of the Year award, before moving to France in 1977.

At Bastia he won the French Cup in 1980 and stayed in French football until 1989, having scored 111 goals in 310 games over eleven seasons. Milla proved he was a player to be taken seriously, yet he still arrived at Italia ’90 accompanied by an air of mystery.

This was not least because of his name, which actually reads ‘Miller’ on his birth certificate, but was altered by the player himself. Despite this, and the toothless grin, the clumsy running style and the thinning hair, Milla proved himself to be a devastating forward during Cameroon’s fearsome and, at times, brutal run to the last eight.

Following the Indomitable Lions’ astounding opening victory against holders Argentina, they proceeded to dispatch Romania thanks to two fine Milla efforts - both goals displaying a keen sense of opportunism, as well as formidable power, pace and finishing ability. It was in this fixture, and following these goals, that Milla introduced the world to his corner-flag, hip-shimmying, ‘Oldest Swinger in Town’ celebration, but it wasn’t the last time the tournament would be treated to it.

Against Colombia in the last 16, Milla again proved to be the difference-maker, riding challenges and unleashing a powerful strike for the central Africans’ first, before capitalising from some typical Rene Higuita bravado for a second.

Milla’s celebration is adored and remembered fondly because it was a glimpse of joy, of an old professional enjoying the game, the sport and the moment with the passion and the pleasure of a young boy.

It remains an important symbol of the increasing prominence of the African game, but it also encapsulates many of the qualities that make the continent’s sport so celebrated - the individualism, the character and the joy.

Even 24 years on from his star turn in Italy, no African team or player has managed to eclipse Cameroon’s achievement or make a contribution more memorable, more vivid, than Milla’s shimmying hips.

Take a look at One Stadium - the football destination for official Fifa World Cup partner Sony - which hosts archive footage from every modern finals.

See World Cup 1990 highlights on the Sony One Stadium site.